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3 clues that show you're in a Chinese finger puzzle

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When my late partner, Ruth, was going through chemotherapy, her oncologist gave her a surprising piece of advice: Don’t resist. Cancer survivors are commonly taught to “fight” their cancer and our friend, MaryAnn, took this image a step further, envisioning the drops of her chemotherapy as members of a little SWAT team attacking her invasive cancer cells. Ruth and I were surprised, then, when Dr. Patel, after listening to Ruth’s concerns about her chemo, gently said, with his wonderful trilling accent, “R-r-ruth, don’t r-r-resist. Don’t resist the chemotherapy as it comes into your body. Allow it to do its healing work for you.”

Ruth’s life was changed by these two little words, “Don’t resist.” Her metastatic breast cancer should have ended her life within nine months or so but, instead, through consciously practicing non-resistance, she lived four more rich, meaningful, joyous years.

How do you know when you are resisting something? The experience of a Chinese finger puzzle gives us some clues:

1. You begin to feel oddly stuck.

2. The harder you resist your situation, the more you feel trapped.

3. As you continue to struggle vigorously to escape, you feel a sense of panic that you may never be able to get out of your situation.

So, what’s that old definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Resistance is pulling and pulling and pulling at the finger puzzle trying to get out, not realizing that the only way to get out is to relax and give in. Not give up, but give in.

Are you resisting something? Take a breath, step back, relax, and try something else. Maybe giving in to your situation will bring you unexpected peace and joy, too.

Takeaway points: Resistance brings us only angst and exhaustion. Relaxing against the pull of life can bring freedom and release.

What are your thoughts about the finger puzzles in your life?


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Bobbi Emel is a therapist who helps people in Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View and the greater Bay Area manage their stress and develop their strengths.
She is effective in helping people dealing with anxiety, worry and grief; and also those who want to improve their effectiveness and performance.